BALTIMORE -- Star infielder Manny Machado made it clear this offseason he wants to play shortstop, his natural position, and manager Buck Showalter confirmed at Orioles FanFest on Saturday that the club is granting his request.
Machado has played much of his first six seasons in the Major Leagues at third base while J.J. Hardy manned short, but Hardy's departure for free agency this offseason opened up the spot full time for the 25-year-old Machado. Tim Beckham, who the Orioles acquired in a July 31 deal with the Rays last season, will slide over to the hot corner.
Manny Machado to play SS in 2018
"There could be some adjustments down in [Spring Training]," Showalter said. "That's where we're going to head into it and there's a chance we could adjust from there. But I've talk to both Manny and Tim about it and we think it's our best setup right now."
Machado, who has been a subject of trade rumors as he enters his final year before hitting the open market, spent a majority of his time in the Minor Leagues at short. He transitioned to third upon a promotion to the big leagues in August 2012, helping Baltimore reach the postseason for the first time since 1997.
When Hardy missed time because of a left foot fracture in 2016, Machado took over for 43 games at shortstop but slid back over to third in '17 and stayed there after the Orioles traded for Beckham. The 28-year-old Beckham has appeared in nine career games at third, but showed the versatility to play both second base and shortstop during parts of four seasons with the Rays.
"I think out of his respect for J.J. the last few years, obviously, [Machado has] been very professional about it," Showalter said. "But it's not like he's changing positions. He's going back to the position he's equipped to play."
Showalter stressed the importance of getting both bats in the lineup every day and said he feels the decision gives Baltimore its premier infield defensively. The O's skipper added this is something he's been discussing with Machado throughout the offseason.
"We need to settle both those guys into a spot and get after it," Showalter said. "I think they're both capable of playing both [positions]."
Though Beckham settled in as the Orioles' everyday shortstop last season, Machado is widely regarded as one of the better defensive infielders in baseball.
"All indications of everyone who has seen [Machado] say he's really excited about this," Showalter said. "I can't imagine him being in a better frame of mind or physically set up to do this."
It's unclear if the move will help Baltimore sign Machado to a long-term contract. Perhaps it increases his trade value if general manager Dan Duquette is ultimately able to work out a deal with a potential trade partner sometime before the 2018 non-waiver Trade Deadline. It should, at the very least, improve the team's infield on defense.
"It's Manny's natural position and Manny's basically played shortstop in the shift for three or four years." Showalter said. "I know how important Manny is to our team and I think he can be the most impactful there, especially with the loss of [Hardy]. We had some challenges there without J.J., and I think Manny is our best option there."
Oliver Macklin

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